Typically at Big Ten Media Days, Nittany Lion players avoid saying anything remotely controversial. And generally speaking, that was the case with Royster and teammates Stefen Wisniewski and D'Anton Lynn Monday.
But when the topic of Penn State's all-time rushing record came up, Royster was surprisingly candid. The senior needs only 481 yards to eclipse the record total of 3,398 yards set by Hall of Famer Curt Warner nearly three decades ago.
I don't have to be politically correct -- I want it, Royster said. There's no doubt about it, I want the record.
He did, however, offer the following qualifier: I just can't focus my whole game on that. I'm still in it to win football games. And if we're going to win games, it's going to happen. We're not going to have to throw the ball every down to win games. So even if we're running the ball 15 times a game, it's gonna happen.
Entering his third year as a starter, Royster is preparing as if he will be carrying the ball more than 15 times per game. After playing last season at 213 pounds, he bulked up to as much as 228 in the off-season. It clearly impacted his endurance as he struggled in July's team strength and conditioning challenge, Lift For Life.
But Royster insists there is a method to his approach.
Last year, he entered preseason camp at 218 pounds -- which he thinks is his perfect playing weight. But the preseason grind caused him to quickly drop to 213 and he never put the weight back on.
Even though he went on to win first-team All-Conference honors and enters his final season with 2,918 rushing yards (not to mention a gaudy yards-per-carry average of 6.1), he believes he will be better if bigger.
I kind of did it on purpose, he said. I wanted to get up to the mid-220 area [in the off-season] because I'm gonna drop five or six pounds in camp. My goal weight is to play at 218. It was all on purpose. It was tough for me to get back into shape at first, but I'm back and feel good.
As of Monday, he weighed 224. Preseason ball starts Thursday.
Royster admitted his plan did not go over particularly well with PSU's strength and conditioning staff.
You really don't talk to them about why you are doing it, Royster said. They just kind of see it as you being lazy or something, so they do get upset. But in the long run, you're doing it to make yourself a better player. It is what you think you need to be, and that's why I did it.
Royster was also asked about his decision to skip Penn State's first summer semester, a practice that is becoming more common among upperclassmen. It was something he would have never considered earlier in his career. But, by his estimation, since arriving at PSU he had never taken off more than a couple of weeks prior to this summer.
I did it for family reasons, he said. My brother has two kids now, and I wanted to see them and spend some time with them. I had just graduated, so I felt like I could take a break. And they didn't have the class I needed to alleviate [any of his academic requirements] in the fall.
Even players who have graduated must continue to take classes to remain eligible, either in graduate school or while working toward a second undergrad degree.
Since he is facing the prospect of a busy fall, Royster said he has no regrets about taking off one summer semester.
I felt like it was a good time [to do it], he said. It didn't hurt me.